I Heard the Mission Bell

Did you ever wonder what those rusty bells perched on green poles represent on the freeway? The bells mark the original route of "El Camino Real" (Spanish for highway of the King or Royal Highway) from San Diego to Sonoma and are a large part of California's rich history. The 600-mile-long route of El Camino Real which links California's 21 missions, founded by Father Junipero Serra, and are spaced one day's journey apart by horse.

Missions are a great way to discover the rich heritage the Spanish called Alta California between 1768 and 1853. Some of the missions still function as churches, some have small museums, and offer tours. Here is a list of the California Missions from north to south:

San Francisco Solano, 21st missionest. 1823, 20 E. Spain St., Sonoma, (707) 938-1519

San Rafael Arcangel, 20th mission est. 1817, 1104 Fifth Ave., San Rafael, (415) 454-8141

San Francisco de Asis, Mission Dolores, 6th missionest. 1776, 3321 16th St., San Francisco, (415) 621-8203

San Jose, 14th missionest. 1797, 43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont, (510) 657-1797

Santa Clara de Asis, 8th missionest. 1777, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, (408) 554-4023

Santa Cruz, 12th missionest. 1791, 126 High St., Santa Cruz, (831) 426-5686

San Juan Bautista, 15th missionest. 1797, Second and Mariposa Sts. in San Juan Bautista, (831) 623-4528

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, 2nd mission, est. 1770, 3080 Rio Rd., Carmel, (831) 624-3600

Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, 13th missionest. 1791, 36641 Ft. Romie Rd., Soledad, (831) 678-2586

San Antonio de Padua, 3rd mission, Jolon

San Antonio de Padua, 3rd mission, Jolon

San Antonio de Padua, 3rd missionest. 1771, Mission Creek Rd., Jolon, (831) 385-4478

San Miguel Arcangel, 16th missionest. 1797, 801 Mission St., San Miguel, (805) 467-3256

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, 5th missionest. 1772, 782 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo, (805) 543-6850

La Purisima Conception, 11th missionest. 1787, 2295 Purisima Rd., Lompoc, (805) 733-3713

Santa Ines, 19th missionest. 1804, 1760 Mission Dr., Solvang, (805) 688-4815

Santa Barbara, 10th missionest. 1786, 2201 Laguna St., Santa Barbara, (805) 682-4713

San Buenaventura, 9th missionest. 1782, 225 E. Main St., Ventura, (805) 648-4496

San Fernando Rey de Espana, 17th missionest. 1797, 15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills, (818) 361-0186

San Gabriel Arcangel, 4th missionest. 1771, 428 South Mission Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 457-3035

SAN DIEGO DO ALCALA, 1ST MISSION, SAN DIEGO

SAN DIEGO DO ALCALA, 1ST MISSION, SAN DIEGO

San Juan Capistrano, 7th missionest. 1776, Ortega Hwy. at Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 234-1300

San Luis Rey de Francia, 18th mission, est. 1798, 4050 Mission Ave., San Luis Rey, (760) 757-3651

San Diego de Alcala, 1st mission, est. 1769, 10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, (619) 281-8449